11 July 2017
Where Are We in Financing the SDGs?
UN Photo/Cia Pak
story highlights

This policy brief reflects on progress on SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), drawing on the outcomes from the FfD and STI Forums.

Governments and stakeholders are mobilizing efforts and resources to improve capacities and information sources to assess progress on SDG 17.

Means of implementation (MOI) for all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are addressed in SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals), SDG targets on MOI under each SDG and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development (FfD). Together, these agreements provide the normative framework, targets to guide policy directions and indicators to quantitatively assess the mobilization of resources for SDG implementation.

The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) will review progress on SDG 17 as part of its planned annual review of the Goal. The 2017 HLPF is convening from 10-20 July 2017, in New York, US, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The SDG 17 review is scheduled for 13 July 2017.

To assess progress on SDG 17, the HLPF will use the intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations of the FfD Forum, which took place from 22-25 May 2017, and the summary of the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum), which took place on 15-16 May 2017. The outcomes of the two forums cover the latest policy trends relevant to SDG 17.

Progress or gaps in SDG 17’s implementation are largely difficult to assess at this point: unlike other SDGs that have baseline data to draw on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), many of the MOI aspects captured in SDG 17 are completely new. Baseline data and methodologies for accounting on SDG 17 are still in their infancy; consequently, assessing current progress on SDG 17 is more a reflection of initiatives and actions undertaken rather than a comprehensive or quantitative mapping of implementation.

This policy brief will first provide a snapshot of progress on some of the SDG 17 targets and indicators for which data is available. The brief then highlights some of the main policy directions on MOI and partnerships for the goals, as reflected in the outcomes from the FfD and STI Forums.

Assessment of Progress

SDG 17 has 19 targets and 25 indicators, which are grouped among five topics: finance; information and communications technology (ICT); capacity building; trade; and systemic issues. The UN Secretary-General’s Report ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals,’ provides a quantitative assessment of progress for parts of SDG 17 for which data is available, and baseline data for areas where progress is still to be assessed.

Finance: The latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) data show that ODA rose by 7.1%.in 2016, (without including aid used for refugees in donor countries). Germany joined Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, and the UK in meeting the UN target to keep ODA at or above 0.7% of GNI while the Netherlands’ decline in ODA in 2016 brought it below the target.

Trends in finance for LDCs are more mixed. Despite upward trends in overall ODA, the 2016 data show that bilateral aid to the LDCs fell by 3.9% in real terms from 2015, and aid to Africa fell 0.5%. On a positive note, the results of the 2016 DAC Survey on Donors’ Forward Spending Plans suggest a US $5.2 billion increase of global country programmable aid (CPA), which is primarily expected to benefit LDCs and fragile states, with an increase of 6% in real terms due to larger disbursements by multilateral agencies. CPA is the portion of ODA that providers can programme for individual countries or regions and is a closer proxy for aid that goes to partner countries than ODA. According to the 2016 survey, global CPA is projected to remain stable up to 2019 with a continued upward trajectory for the LDCs.

In 2016, international remittances totaled US $575 billion, with 75% (US $429 billion) of remittances going to developing countries. An International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) report found that 40% of remittances are sent to rural areas where the majority of poor people live, underscoring the contribution of remittances to lifting millions out of poverty and contributing to achieving the SDGs. Remittance trends also illustrate increases over time, with migrants sending home 51% more than they did 10 years ago. In 2017, IFAD predicts that one in seven people globally will either send or receive remittances.

ICT: The Secretary-General’s Progress Report cautions that fixed-broadband services remain largely unaffordable and unavailable throughout large segments of the developing world. In 2016, fixed-broadband penetration reached 30% in developed regions but only reached 8.2% and 0.8% in developing regions and the LDCs, respectively. Furthermore, a SDG Knowledge Hub guest article found the global rate of Internet user penetration was 12% lower for women than men, with the gender gap remaining even larger in the LDCs, at 31%.

Capacity-building: Total ODA for capacity-building and national planning stood at US $21 billion in 2015, representing 19% of total aid allocable by sector. Of the total, sub-Saharan Africa received US $5.6 billion and South and Central Asia received US $4.2 billion, with public administration, environment and energy sectors representing the main recipients of assistance.

Trade: The SDG Progress Report states that exports from developing regions increased from 31.1% in 2001 to 44.6% in 2015. For the LDCs, however, the share in world merchandise exports decreased from 1.1% in 2011 to 0.9% in 2015. In 2015, average tariffs applied by developed countries to imports from the LDCs remained stable at 0.9% for agricultural products, 6.5% for clothing and 3.2% for textiles.

Systemic issues: In 2016, 125 countries engaged in country-led monitoring of development effectiveness, which the SDG Progress Report states demonstrates their commitment to strengthening SDG implementation, including through multi-stakeholder partnerships. In addition, 54 of those countries reported overall progress towards commitments, and countries used their own result frameworks to define 83% of new interventions supported by donor countries in 2016, which suggests progress on respecting country’s policy space and leadership to establish and implement policies for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

The Progress Report highlights the need for additional statistical support to meet data capacity and monitoring needs. More than 50% of the countries or areas (81 of 154 countries) for which information is available were implementing national statistical plans in 2016. However, only 44% (37 of 83 countries) had national statistical legislation in place that complied with all 10 Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics. To meet SDG data requirements, developing countries will need an estimated US$1 billion in statistical support annually from domestic and donor sources.

Between 2007 to 2016, the publication notes that 89% of countries conducted at least one population and housing census, which is a primary source of disaggregated data needed to formulate, implement and monitor development policies and programmes in support of the SDGs. Twenty-five countries did not have this type of data source.

During the period from 2010 to 2015, 56% of the world’s countries or areas had birth registration data that were at least 90% complete. However, in sub-Saharan Africa only 8 of 53 countries reached that level of coverage. During the same period, 59% of countries had death registration data that were at least 75% complete, but in sub-Saharan Africa only 9 in 53 countries met that standard. These figures highlight significant data limitations in Sub-Saharan Africa and the need for capacity building support for those countries to enable them implement and effectively monitor the SDGs.

Domestic resources mobilization (DRM) is a critical component of SDG 17 and is addressed under target 17.1 (strengthen DRM, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection). The Secretary General’s Report does not provide an update on DRM because a methodology for accounting for DRM has not yet been developed. However, several international initiatives on tax are working in support of this target, including: the Addis Tax Initiative; Tax Inspectors Without Borders; Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS); and the Platform for Collaboration on Tax. These initiatives are setting in place tools for supporting countries to strengthen their DRM capacities.

Policy Directions

Agreed Conclusions from the FfD Forum: The AAAA mandates the FfD Forum to produce intergovernmentally agreed conclusions and recommendations that provide input to the HLPF as part of the follow-up and review of the MOI of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including SDG 17. In contrast to the 2016 FfD Forum’s conclusions and recommendations, which were short and strictly procedural, this year’s outcome tackled substantive issues.

The 2017 FfD outcome reflects an “all hands on deck” approach to implementing SDG 17 and balances the responsibility for creating enabling environments across the board, from governments to stakeholders and UN agencies. The text states that governments have focused on the pursuit of “win-win” cooperation and encourages governments to both accelerate national efforts and strengthen international cooperation to support policies and programmes to increase investment in sustainable development, including from public, private, domestic, and international sources.

Source and recipient countries of FfD both have responsibility for mobilizing necessary financing for SDG implementation, mainly through suggestions for supportive regulatory frameworks and capacity building. On infrastructure, for example, governments encourage all stakeholders to foster and develop bankable and implementable infrastructure projects in developing countries, including through capacity-building. Capacity building is also one of the main MOI envisioned for social protection, more specifically for developing the right financing mixes that match countries’ respective needs, capacities and national circumstances.

On domestic public resources, the FfD outcome invites the Secretary-General to seek additional nominations from governments of developing countries for the UN Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters. With regards to illicit financial flows (IFFs), the document encourages countries to strengthen existing institutions and law enforcement in both source and destination countries.

On domestic and international private business and finance, the text encourages multilateral development banks (MDBs) and development finance institutions to link their enabling environment work with private sector investment to ensure that reforms address investor needs. The document also encourages private sector efforts to better align internal incentives with long-term investment and the 2030 Agenda, including through UN system initiatives. On foreign direct investment (FDI), the draft encourages an increase in volume and quality, particularly alignment with the SDGs, as well as its diversification and long-term nature.

On international development cooperation, Member States call on official development assistance (ODA) providers to fulfill their commitments, including the commitment by many developed countries to achieve the national target of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI). Member States also encourage ODA providers to consider setting a target to provide at least 0.2% ODA/ GNI to LDCs, while acknowledging that ODA and other forms of concessional finance are still important for many middle income countries (MICs). On concessional finance, the draft encourages shareholders in MDBs to develop graduation policies that are sequenced, phased and gradual.

On international trade as an engine for development, the text calls for governments to promote policies that encourage access by micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to adequate and affordable trade finance at all levels. The document also welcomes increasing aid-for-trade aimed at value addition and economic diversification and notes the importance of regional aid-for-trade in supporting faster transit of goods at border crossings and integration into value chains.

On science, technology, innovation and capacity-building, the text notes the importance of technology transfer on mutually agreed terms. The document encourages government spending on research and development to remain stable and long-term oriented. The document further encourages incentivizing greater private investment and innovation and welcomes collaboration between Member States and all other stakeholders.

Summary of the STI Forum: The second annual STI Forum focused on the SDGs that will be reviewed by the HLPF this year: SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and SDG 14 (life below water). Participants showcased concrete ways in which STI is and can be used for implementing these six SDGs and also discussed macro-systemic issues relevant for implementing the entire 2030 Agenda.

The Forum’s summary calls for scaling up smart investment by governments, the private sector and other partners to build productive and human capacity for STI to unlock the creative potential of youth and women. Participants emphasized investments in infrastructure and connectivity to bridge various forms of exclusion, including rural-urban and geographic divides, and suggested efforts to scale up STI, such as through innovative solutions, financial instruments and channels like impact investing, crowd-funding, diaspora funders, and local communities.

The summary calls for developing STI road maps and action plans with a particular focus on accelerating SDG progress at the subnational, national and global levels. The summary recommends such plans: include measures for tracking progress; evaluate what works; and produce continual revisions to facilitate a learning environment. The text recommends engaging all relevant stakeholders in STI policy design, adaptation and application.

Participants suggested meeting needs through existing low-cost technologies. For example, participants highlighted opportunities for scientists and innovators to engage small-scale farmers in developing innovative agricultural systems. Noting the disruptive effects on societies of new technologies, such as nanotechnology, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, gene editing, big data and 3D printing, the Forum also called for broadening discussions on the impact of technologies and science.

The Forum’s summary invites Member States to consider strengthening their political and financial support for the TFM to ensure even greater participation from developing countries and the development and operationalization of the TFM – both its online and offline activities.

On future directions, the summary recommends the Forum: serve as catalyst for multi-stakeholder partnerships that include the private sector; be closely linked with and foster collaboration across existing initiatives to overcome fragmented and uncoordinated approaches; and focus on matchmaking between existing problems and existing solutions to facilitate STI assistance to countries where it is most needed.

Policy Recommendations

The 2017 report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development (IATF), which is mandated to report annually on progress in implementing the FfD outcomes and the MOI of the 2030 Agenda, including SDG 17, notes the significant impact of the current difficult global environment on SDG national implementation efforts. The report explains that difficulties stem not only from economic factors, such as challenging macroeconomic conditions, a large drop in commodity prices, decelerating trade growth, and volatile capital flows, but also natural disasters and environmental, humanitarian and security crises. These difficulties could be further exacerbated if the international community retreats from its commitment to multilateral cooperation for sustainable development, the report observes. IATF stresses that, in this context, a renewed commitment and concrete actions by Member States to create and preserve an enabling international economic environment remain a priority.

At the national level, the IATF assessment recognizes that efforts are underway on many levels to develop and strengthen financing frameworks to support the SDGs, with calls for national strategies and plans to guide implementation efforts in almost all areas. The Task Force recommends bringing these efforts together into a cohesive framework, further underscoring the need for stakeholders with diverse interests to arrive at a common understanding.

To that end, the Task Force recommends designing integrated national financing frameworks that take into consideration all financing sources and policies, underling that developing and implementing them is one of the central challenges that countries face as they embark on achieving the SDGs. The IATF highlights the Development Finance Assessments, developed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), as a first step that countries could take, as these assessments comprehensively scan a country’s financing landscape in terms of both flows and policies.


Building a sound, solid database to monitor progress on SDG 17 is as ambitious as delivering on SDG 17, given the increasing complexity of the current financial and technological landscapes and the multitude of financial and technological flows. Governments and stakeholders are mobilizing efforts and resources to improve capacities and information sources to assess progress on SDG 17; depending on their progress, future HLPF sessions may benefit from a more in-depth review of the state of implementation.

Policy integration would contribute significantly to making the efforts to monitor and gather data on SDG 17 easier and much more accurate. Such integration will require coherent policies and an enabling environment at all levels and by all actors. Fora such as the FfD Forum, the STI Forum and the HLPF are contributing to shaping the much needed supportive change in mindsets.

This policy brief is part of a special series of background policy briefs developed by the SDG Knowledge Hub in preparation for the 2017 session of the HLPF. Other policy briefs focus on SDG 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 3 (good health and wellbeing), SDG 5 (gender equality), 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), and 14 (life below water).

related events

related posts